Thursday, May 22, 2014
Event: Junkyard Wedding.
Activities: Mountain biking.
Destination: Bend, Or
Oregon had been on my "must visit" list, yet I had never been. This trip was long overdue. It took a dear friend getting married to seal the deal. So, six of us headed out to Bend to witness and share in this grand event, and of course, we would spend a week mountain biking as well.
As we flew across the country, my anticipation grew. The dismal clouds that engulfed Chicago finally gave way to snow covered mountains in Montana. I had been to Montana, so that was not a new sight, but as we approached Portland I noticed wind farms along the Columbia River. And then, snow covered volcanic peaks came into view. Independent and statuesque, they rose into the sky alone with no range around them. This was all new to my eyes and indeed spectacular.
After a hectic morning getting set up with rental bikes, we got out on the trails to ride with the bride to be. The trails themselves were also a sea change difference from our home trails. First off, no rocks. The trails were super buffed out and smooth. The most noticeable difference, and this comes from a trail builder, is that the trails were bike specific. There were burmed turns, one way trails and bike only trails. Bend is a biker town indeed!
The big deal of the day was riding the Woops trail. Imagine sampling a slightly downhill 2 mile combination of pump track, table tops and woopty’s. What a hoot!! Every single one of us came out of the trail smiling like a kid. This is a must ride if you are ever in Bend.
The bridge that we crossed to start one of the most beautiful and spectacular rides....
McKenzie River Trail .... WOW! ....
volcanic rock and ferns
100 foot gushing waterfalls
crystal clear, brilliant blue pools
pools that come from under ground
The trail zigzagged along the river, crossing it many times. There were ups, downs, volcanic rocks gardens and smooth twisty sections that meandered through forests of gigantic trees. We did a double car shuttle so that we could see the whole length and still make it back for the rehearsal dinner. It was really spectacular! When I got to the top of Sahalie Falls, I was awed with the sheer volume of water launching over the edge. No guard rails on this trail, so you really felt the closeness to the natural forces... spectacular!
I am fortunate to have a friend like LW. My life has been enriched through our friendship and being inspired by her gentle spirit, her passions, her creativity and her connection to a simple life. Her wedding held true to her passions in many ways. Held in a salvage facility, the eclectic mix of table linens, dishes, and cuisine at the wedding, were as refreshing as the mix of people joined together that day. It was awesome to see her get married to her perfect match in a junkyard. It was a perfect celebration. Add margaritas and dancing, and you have a great wedding that begins a life story of these beautiful two people!
Our motto of the week was 500 laughs a day. I’ll have to admit that this was harder than we thought it would be. We had a schedule to follow, and that did add some stress now and then. I have to thank Patty for often interjecting laughs to keep us on track. It seemed like every day we over extended our riding time and were under the gun to get home in time for social activities. We did manage to end our trip with some epic adventure, and although I am smiling now, there were fewer smiles during that ride.
It was our last day of riding and we headed out for what we though was a three hour ride. I can assure you that my legs were toast as we had ridden mountain bikes close to 150 miles already. Rain showers were pressing, so I packed a trash bag in my pack, as I had no real raincoat. I did this with superstitious hopes that it would keep the rain away. We were doing a big loop with no short cut and that may have been a risky choice, but our NJ transplant friend, now Bend bike mechanic/dog musher, wanted to show us his favorite trail loop.
I struggled early on the ride because my legs were really tired. As we approached higher elevation, we were faced with hundreds of blown down pine trees and snowdrifts. Some snowdrifts were 3 feet deep, making it hard to find the trail. This went on for almost 5 miles. It was actually a welcome break for my climbing legs, to have to get off and walk and lift my bike over trees. At that point we were feeling like we were digging ourselves in past the point of no return. I even began to question if we would make it back to the bike shop in time to return our rental bikes.
Finally we reached our trail junction to start our descent down the other side of the mountain. This was comforting, however, the snow and blown down trees continued. Finally the trails cleared and it began to rain. I put on my trash bag, which was a lifesaver to keep my core warm. I could barely feel my hands when we got to the bottom, but I stayed positive as I knew I was past the half way point and there would be more downhill from this point on.
Eventually the sun returned and the bag came off. Our loop spit us out at the top of woops trail, so we had one more run down woops. However, we were all so tired, I wondered if the trail would make us smile like it did the first day. Tired, beaten, soaked wet and feeling lifeless, I smiled my way down! After 45 miles and 5.5 hours ride time, we were done.
The next morning we were up early to drive to Portland for our flight that was terminally delayed and doomed from the start. Watching lightning nearly strike our plane during landing and sleeping in an airport refugee camp in cots seemed minor compared to the effort of our last ride. I made a point to try and catch up on smiles while camped out in O'hare Airport. The sun came up the next morning and those of us still laughing ran to the window to see the sun rise. It was a hopeful sight that seemed perfectly timed near the end of a few epic days. I am now home resting up for Bearscat 50.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Way, way behind schedule this year, but here is my recap for my first race of the season:
I usually have a few races and plenty of training rides under my belt by mid April, but this year was a bit different. At some point, I just gave up. I got back from Arizona in mid March, had a great few weeks on the bike, and I was poised to take charge of race training once it warmed up and the snow melted. But something unusual happened, …. spring never came. After a month of pulling on tights and winter jackets to try to go out on my road bike in 30 mile an hour winds, I folded. I decided to put my efforts into trail building and trail advocacy. With an increase in hiking activities and unknowingly riding a bike with a broken rear shock, I some how, ended up with a strained glute and an extremely sore back.
So now I was back on my trusty, old, steel, hard tail at the start line of the Jamis Bicycles H2H Spring Cleaning Race at Wawayanda State Park. Discouraged, sore and lacking race fitness, I started my race, knowing it would be a very long and slow day of riding. However, I was determined to finish the race, if I could. I proceeded to get my heart rate up on my first lap, but it was only a matter of time before I had to resign myself to just plodding along just to make it to the finish. Half way into my race I had a discouraging thought that I had just passed the point where I was on my longest ride of the year, and still had half the race to go.
I do not recall all that much about the race, except there were some gigantic mud holes and running water in spots. Many people mention rocks, but I just call that riding and really do not remember any rocks in particular. It was just a long steady ride that seemed to go on for a long time. I am happy to report that my back did not hurt during the race. Perhaps it was because everything else hurt enough that I did not notice my back. I did finish the race, and I am still amazed that I was not the last person on course to finish.
Through my 20 years of racing, I realize that I have learned to hang in there and get the job done, and by doing so, it seems to get easier each time. However, Sundays race was extremely humbling, and I do not know how many more are left in me. I certainly am not going to quit racing today, and I have much to do before Nationals. I also have a master plan: It is to pass the torch on to other women coming into the sport. It is great to see more women racing and taking charge of their lives on bikes. There is so much healthy fun out there for the taking, and I sure hope we all take and share or pay it forward in some way. Ladies- Go get some!